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Friday, June 10, 2016

Invasion Of The Body Shapers: Do You Have A "Shapewear" Story To Tell?

While most women yearn for an awesome, modelesque shape, most of us are real people. We weren't born that way or we didn't stay that way, and the ideal images set by celebrities are unrealistic for many of us.
But humans, being the innovative creatures that we are, have come up with a solution of sorts.
Ah, but it's not a modern innovation we're talking about. Both men and women have been using various sorts of shapewear under their garments for about 5,000 years.
In Ancient Times
The first evidence of a corset-like garment for women originated in the Bronze Age Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. There, a cupless bra was first worn around 2500 to 3000 BC. Based on surviving artifacts, the bodice of a dress was constructed of a stiff fabric, tight enough to hold in the waist and emphasize the bare bosom.
Body shaping in the Minoan culture wasn't only for women. Men wore codpieces in that culture as well.
                   Minoan Culture
The ancient Greece, women wore corsets of leather bands to define their hips and busts under the Greek Chiton. From birth, girls were swaddled for six months, their legs and arms bound to restrict their movement and keeping limbs straight. Greek girls were forced to keep trim and mothers used woolen bands to keep the developing bodies slim. -- Pauline Weston Thomas for 
            Greek Chiton                  Roman Toga
 In Rome, loose fitting robes (togas) and shapers similar to the Greek leather bands were worn. To provide shape, both men and women added pins and sashes (called girdles).

Fast Forward To The Middle Ages
Women of the Middles Ages were covered from head to foot since religious beliefs taught that the body was sinful. Even donning underpants was something to be ashamed of. Legends tells us that in 1370 the Roman Empire issued the following edict. "No woman will support the bust by the disposition of a blouse of by tightened dress."

By the end of the 14th century, clothes were being cut and shaped to the body. The corset, no designed to cover and flatten the breasts, was reborn. Eventually the garment was remodeled to lift the bustline and push it outward, and to cinch in the waist.

The 16th Century Iron Cage
The funnel-shaped "iron cage" corset was brought from Italy to France in the 1500's by Catherine de Medici when she married King Henry II of France. She is often (and mistakenly) given credit for inventing the corset. The women of the French aristocracy soon deemed it an indispensable garment.
Catherine de Medici's corset 1590       16th Century Italian Iron Cage 

Later, these iron instruments of torture were softened and fashioned from silk and other fabrics stiffened by stays of whalebone, other bone, and wood. Freed from being a part of the dress bodice, the now-stand-alone corset was demoted to the status of underwear.

During the Renaissance, men, as well as women, sculpted their silhouettes with padding, including fake calves, paunches (why, I can't guess), doublets that puffed up a man's chest, and codpieces. Some Waistcoats, designed to be corset-like, were worn by men as an outer garment.
And speaking of padding, let's not forget the codpiece (cod meaning scrotum in middle English). This was a man's "signature piece" and symbol of his virility and wealth. 
In the photo (by Hollis Barnhart), Denis Bruna, a curator at Paris's Museum of Decorative Arts (inside the Louvre) hold up a reproduction of a codpiece.
The corset stays made it very difficult to move, so I assume these garments were worn mostly by aristocrats who didn't need to move around much. Working people didn't have that luxury.
In fact, corsets all but disappeared during the French Revolution in 1789 when it became unpopular to be associated with the aristocracy.
If Wealth Corset wearing and.Corset wearing = Aristocrat and Wealth = Guillotine, then Corset wearing = Headless aristocrat.(
Perhaps that's the reason for the advent of the high-waisted style of the 1790's which deemphasized the natural waist and the need for a tight corset.
The Corset Slides Downward: A Near-Death Experience
When the waistline returned to its original position, the corset was back, but instead of ending at the waist like a funnel, they were more curvaceous and extended below the waist -- the corset slid downward, so to speak
Nonetheless, by the late 1800's and early 1900's, the corset slid lower in shape and popularity. The straight-front or S-bend corset, worn from circa 1900 to 1910 was supposed to be better for women's health because it exerted less pressure on the stomach. That benefit was offset by injury to the back due to the unnatural posture of forcing the torso forward. At the same time, the bustle became popular. It didn't shape the body in the same was as the corset, but supported the fullness at the back of women's dresses.
  By Unknown Coronet Corset Co. work-for-hire artist - Ladies Home Journal, Public Domain 

The woman's movement in the early 1900's led to more women in the job market and participating in outdoor activities, and the popularity of the corset and bustle slid. WWI dealt a near-death blow in 1917 when the U.S. War Industries Board asked American women to give up corsets to save the steel for war production. According to Wikipedia, this step freed up 28,000 tons of metal, enough to build two battleships.
Girdles made with elasticized materials that ran from the waist down to various lengths and garters or garter belts persisted through the 1950's but, by the 1960s Hippie era, the girdle had slid all the way down and off the modern woman's body. After nearly a hundred-year breathing spell (fifty-years if you look at it a little differently) we can thank current selebrities for the remarkable revival of modern shapewear..
 After nearly a hundred-year breathing spell (fifty-years if you look at it a little differently) we can thank current selebrities for the remarkable revival of modern shapewear.The first honor goes to Oprah Winfrey for declaring, in 2000, Spanx as one of her favorite things. In eight years, the market tripled to $750 million in annual sales in 2008. – NPD Group, Market Reseach

According to Lindsay Putnam, we "have the Kardashians to thank for making a torture device from the 16th century relevant in 2014." The waist-cincher.
Today women no longer have to put up with ominous names like "the iron cage" and can enjoy wearing: It Figures!, Yummie Tummie, Feel Foxy Shapewear, Squeem Shapewear, Bare Necessities, InstantSlim, Her Room, Va Bien's, ResultWear, Not Your Daughter's Jeans, Whatsawaist, Spanx Bod-a-Bing!, and Spanx Hide & Sleek.
I found a more limited list of brands for men. I'm sure there are others: PowerSlim, Durafit, Leo, Hoter, InstaSlim, Zero Body, Ardyss Abdomen, etc.
The fact that the industry calls shapewear by the name of "compression clothing" might give a hint to what we're actually doing to our bodies. Fortunately, knowledge and technology have come a long way since the days of the iron cage, and the industry claims that "Today's body shapers are comfortable, effective, and give a natural-looking shape."
Yeah, right!
So What's Your Problem, Lady?

Shaper Type

Areas Shaped

Minimizer bra
Bust, upper back
Control brief
Abdomen, rear, hips; sometimes waist if extends upward and thighs if extends downward
Slip shaper
Abdomen, rear, hips, thighs
Shaping top
Upper and lower back, stomach; waist if long enough and bust if bra is included
Waist cincher
Waist, abdomen if extends downward
Thigh slimmer
Abdomen, rear, hips, thighs
All-over shaping for upper and lower back, waist, abdomen, rear, hips, and thighs; bust included if the shaper has a built-in bra
Note that this chart doesn't account for the fact that not everyone wants to smooth and minimize. There are those who want to add where it counts. We all know about padded bras but padded undies for men and women, butt lifters, compression T-shirts, you name it. They are all shapewear.

 Shapewear by Bubbles
The Dos And Don'ts Of Shapewear
Make the most of your shapewear by focusing on the problems you want to ameliorate and by knowing how to select and take care of it. The following dos and don'ts come from several sources.
●    Don’t buy a piece of shapewear without having the answers to three questions
1) The specific problem area(s) on your body you’d like to address, 2) How often you’d like to wear the garment, and 3) Which level of control will bring you the greatest satisfaction given the piece’s combination of comfort and performance.
●    Don’t fall for the tricks in Before-and-After Shapewear Ads
●    Do know which shapers help which body parts.
Zone in on target areas, and decide how much control is needed (for all garments or just a specific garment).  Do know how often the garment will be worn.
●    Do try on shapewear before committing to buy, and don't avoid the fitting room
Don’t be complacent about vpls, ride-up, or roll-down.
●    Don’t forget to consider the call of nature when selecting a new piece of shapewear
●    Don't buy shapewear that is too small or too large
Don’t size up or down.
Don’t wear waistline styles if you’re larger around the middle
Don’t wear a Bodybriefer, or any garment providing extra-firm control, if you’re tall.
●    Don't be afraid of seams
      Don’t wear seamless shapewear if you’re looking for the best shaping results.
●    Do pay attention to care instructions
Shapewear (and anything with spandex) is not dryer-friendly. Don’t ignore care labels.
●    Do learn how to put on shapewear correctly
Don’t put shapewear on over your head; step into it.
●    Do wash new pieces before wearing
●    Don’t choose elective cosmetic surgery over shapewear
Don’t sacrifice your favorite bra for control of upper body problem areas, and
Don’t rely on shapewear as a substitute for watching your diet or an exercise regimen.
Where Does The Fat Go?
That's the big question. Experts tell us body fat can move into spaces where muscle is compressed, such as the abs. It can also be moved directionally toward more desirable places. The flab is made more compact by shapewear which can compress up to 1 or 2 inches. Shapewear is designed so the fat comes out in more sexy and appropriate places.
Are There Some Downsides?Absolutely. Just remember the saying "Beauty knows no pain." Suck it in and suck it up. Here are some quotes from various articles on the subject.
"It's too hot."
"There's no graceful way to take this thing off."
"I have to get completely undress just to go to the bathroom."
"You can trap yourself and get stuck trying to get out in a hurry."

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: The Industry Today
Today our psychological desire to feel confident, to be accepted socially, and to attract good mates fuels a multi-billion-dollar industry which includes makeup, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health clubs, diet products, and fashion. The industry presents to us the promise of an idealized image that is new and improved.
“People have been conditioned over the years to believe that achieving a certain level of success is only possible if you also attain a certain level of beauty and physical attractiveness,” says Lisa Amans, department chair of Advertising and Fashion & Retail Management at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.
“Since that surrounds so many of us, both men and women easily fall into the trap of believing that if they are not beautiful they will not be successful.”
The beauty industry has had an influence on how people view attractiveness.
DO YOU HAVE A "SHAPEWEAR" STORY TO TELL?In all this research, I read some very funny experience women have had in relation to shapewear. Please make a comment.

with a novel by Author R. Ann Siracusa
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New Release Coming July 12, 2016

A murder mystery by R. Ann Siracusa



Melissa Keir said...

I'm pretty boring when it comes to shapewear. I always chose comfort over any other thought...except for the one time I bought a slip shapewear. I did love it and wore it a great deal under my dresses and suit skirts. It had a built in panty which made wearing it with hose interesting. Often I was adding another layer to the part I didn't want to add to... underwear, nylons then the slip. Sadly the poor thing just wore out from all the wear and washing and I've yet to find a replacement.

Cara Marsi said...

Ann, you always have such interesting posts. When I was growing up in the late 50's, early 60's, women were expected to wear girdles. It was considered unladylike to not wear one, even for those of us who were slim. I tried wearing a girdle and hated it and wouldn't wear one. I loved when the whole hippie movement started. I stopped wearing a bra, and didn't wear one for years. Such freedom!

Tina Donahue said...

OMG, talk about torture devices and in the summer, no less, when you're sweating. I like to be comfortable. I wear regular underwear, period. I like it and since it's my body, I'm sticking with it. :)

Paris said...

I've never tried any shape-wear that didn't make me feel strangled and irritated. Even pantyhose with built in support drove me crazy. Call me a hippie but I wouldn't even wear a bra if I didn't need to :)

vicki batman said...

I admit, I've worn spanx hosiery with tummy control. It helped (son's wedding), but I couldn't say which I wanted off faster--cute shoes or the hose. Very good post.

jean hart stewart said...

So glad you've got a new book out soon.....

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